Olathe — Look out, Sunflower League. Lawrence High’s girls basketball team is back. And just in time, too.
It took the season’s first eight games, but the Lions’ lineup finally returned to full strength for the first time Friday night, culminating with a 48-43, come-from-behind surge to knock off league foe Olathe Northwest in overtime.
The last piece to the puzzle was Lions guard Cassie Potter, who rejoined the lineup Friday night and subbed into the contest in the second quarter. Potter had missed the Lions’ last six games after suffering a fractured elbow during the team’s first contest and then spraining her ankle once the elbow healed.
Potter’s appearance, coupled with center Shelby Miller’s return last game from an ACL injury, means the Lions now have their regular rotation set for the season. LHS still won’t have the services of forward Tania Jackson, who is out for the year due to an ACL injury, but the Lions are as close to full strength as they’ll be all season.
The boost Potter provided was noticeable almost immediately.
Potter found her shooting touch soon after checking in, burying an off-balance runner in the lane to tie the score at 16 with 3:11 left in the first half. She also spelled guard Haley Parker in handling the ball against the Ravens’ defensive pressure.
Good thing LHS coach Kristin Mallory let her play.
“We were kind of in the mind-set of, ‘Go through warm-ups and see how you feel,’” Mallory said. “‘If we need you, we’ll put you in there in short spurts.’ It didn’t end up being short spurts as much. Late in the game, you just have to have her in there. She’s just too smart.”
Potter missed her final four field-goal attempts of the night, but she played crucial minutes down the stretch of regulation as LHS finally made its move.
“It felt great to play,” Potter said. “I’ve missed it so much. The hardest thing is watching because you know you could go out there and help, and I’m on the side keeping stats the whole time.”
LHS put itself in a difficult situation by playing awful basketball for more than the first three quarters of the contest.
“It was ugly,” LHS guard Taylor Bird said of the game’s first 25 minutes.
With 6:55 left in the contest, DeGroot buried a jumper to give the Ravens their biggest lead at 36-23.
Lions guard Jordyn Tolefree came back on the other end and nailed a three to cut the deficit to 10.
For whatever reason, that’s when the Lions opted to make arguably their first real appearance this season. With their newly intact lineup, they full-court-pressed, forced turnovers and chipped away at a double-digit lead.
When Parker hit two free throws with 30.8 seconds left, the Lions finally had tied the score at 41 — the first tie since Potter’s jumper in the second quarter.
In overtime, LHS guard Taylor Bird picked off a pass at halfcourt and glided in for a layup, handing the Lions only their second lead of the game, 43-41. Their last lead occurred just after tipoff at 2-0.